When you work at a place like L’Abattoir, located in Vancouver’s historic meat-packing district near a laneway known as Blood Alley, you might want to try something completely different when friends drop by your house. So says chef Lee Cooper, who grew up manning his father’s A&W outlets before earning his chops across the pond at Heston Blumenthal’s renowned restaurant The Fat Duck. Today, he spends long hours behind the stove at the acclaimed Gastown meatery, which he co-owns with two friends. When Sunday comes around, he and his wife like to host brunch at home, serving a menu that might include her signature cinnamon buns or scones. Cooper’s contribution is often a rich and delicious quiche, which gives a nod to his West Coast aboriginal heritage and reminds him of catching and smoking fish with his uncles and cousins in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.
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2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
¾ cup cold unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup cold water
6 large leeks (white part only), sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups whipping cream
½ pound (250 g) smoked salmon
To make the crust, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut ½ cup of butter into cubes and blend into flour with two knives or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Lightly beat 1 egg with the cold water and gradually add to the flour mixture until the dough just comes together. (You may not need all the liquid.) Turn the dough onto a floured countertop and knead once or twice. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
Roll the dough to a eighth-inch thickness and fit it into an 8-inch tart shell. Allow the dough to rest while the oven heats to 400 F. Prick the dough all over with a fork and line it with parchment paper. Fill it with pie weights or uncooked beans and bake for 15 minutes. The crust will be only partially cooked. Set aside to cool and turn oven down to 350 F.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining one-quarter cup of butter in a large skillet. Add the leeks and sweat over low heat until they are very soft, stirring often to make sure they don’t stick. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
To assemble the quiche, whisk the 5 remaining eggs with the whipping cream in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour about half of this mixture into the prebaked shell. Cut the salmon into small pieces and evenly distribute it, as well as the cooked leeks, over the filling. Add the remaining egg mixture. Transfer the quiche carefully to the oven and bake 25 minutes or until just set.
Garnish with additional smoked salmon pieces, fresh parsley and a few shallot rings, if desired. Cool before slicing.